Space Shuttle Go for Landing

Astronauts on the Space Shuttle Atlantis spotted three more pieces of space debris near the orbiter today, but NASA still says there's nothing wrong up there, and they're bringing the shuttle home tomorrow. Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell reports.

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Flight controllers were concerned that the debris may have come from the orbiter's heat shield, so the crew did a thorough inch by inch inspection of the shield using cameras on the shuttle's robotic arm. Shuttle Program Manager Wayne Hale says they found nothing to be worried about.

"Nothing was found to be missing or damaged on the thermal protection system, the heat shield of the Space Shuttle Atlantis, or in fact any other part of the Space Shuttle Atlantis."

Concerns over space debris started yesterday when one piece was spotted near the orbiter, and grew overnight when several more pieces were sighted. Hale says they can't tell what they are, but debris is common on space flights.

"Little things come out in space. You lose plastic bags, you lose washers, you have little pieces of plastic, you name it, and they do come out, and over the years we have chased many many many of these things."

Hale says their best guess is that the debris could be small sheets of plastic that are used to keep heat shield tiles from rubbing against each other. In any event, Hale says he's not worried about it because the orbiter is in fine shape and ready to come home.

"And so whatever it was was not important, and sorry we're being a litterbug here."

The shuttle crew has been given the green light to land in Florida tomorrow morning just before 6AM Houston time. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.

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